Michelle Cashen didn’t always know she wanted to work at a farm. The 25-year-old Rockaway native studied environmental policy during her undergrad years. She knew she wanted to be some kind of environmental advocate, so she got a job right out of college as a paralegal at a law firm.
But after a couple years, she realized the sedentary, office lifestyle wasn’t for her. “I did not enjoy sitting at a desk every day and for the majority of my week being inside, sitting down, not using my body,” she told Brokelyn.
While pondering a career change, Cashen, who now lives in Bushwick, looked into opportunities at Brooklyn Grange. She had been on a tour at the farm’s flagship location in Long Island City, and knew they had a farm crew and training program. “My interest in rooftop farming originated from my love of healthy food and my desire to green the city,” she says. “After Hurricane Sandy, I kept thinking, I want to help make NYC a greener place.”
Brooklyn Grange, the world’s largest rooftop soil farm, which grows 50,000 pounds of organic produce yearly, is not a bad place to start. The two farm operation wholesales produce to more than 40 restaurants and retailers across Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, operates a CSA, and sells at farmers’ markets. They also host classes and workshops, support nonprofit education initiatives, maintain more than 30 beehives across the city—the list goes on. It’s a truly mind-blowing example of what hard work, horticulture, and a little ingenuity can accomplish within the limitations of an urban setting.
She applied to the training program and was accepted, working on the farm crew for her first season at Brooklyn Grange. “That was the first time I had done any actual farming,” she says. “I had never even done gardening before. It was all learning as you go.” (more…)